LUDINGTON (WWJ/AP) – The wife of a man charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a Michigan State Police trooper has pleaded guilty to being an accessory in the killing.
Twenty-year-old Sarah Knysz, who is about eight months pregnant, made the plea Tuesday in Mason County Circuit Court in Ludington. The deal calls for her to get one to two years in prison when sentenced on Dec. 17.
Knysz also agreed to testify against her husband, 19-year-old Eric Knysz, who is awaiting trial on charges of murder of a peace officer.
Authorities say Eric Knysz shot Trooper Paul Butterfield in the head during a traffic stop Sept. 9 in Mason County’s Sherman Township, about 80 miles north of Grand Rapids.
According to police, Butterfield had stopped a speeding vehicle around 6:20 p.m. on Custer Road near Townline Road.
In court Tuesday, Sarah Knysz testified that Butterfield asked them how they were doing when she heard a shot.
“He walked up to the window, started to ask like ‘How’s it going?’ and then I heard the gunshot,” she said.
She said the shooting happened before Butterfield could even finish his sentence. The couple then sped off.
“My husband pulled away, and I looked behind and I saw the trooper laying in the road and a bunch of blood,” she said.
A few moments later, a passing motorist called 911 to report finding Butterfield on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head. Butterfield was airlifted to Munson Hospital, where he passed away during emergency surgery.
Sarah Knysz testified that after the shooting, the couple drove to her mother-in-law’s house where Eric Knysz cleaned Butterfield’s blood and tissue off the truck with napkins.
“I just went it and told her we needed her and we went back out and got in the truck,” she said. “He left his mom’s and she asked what was going on and he said that he needed her to drive the truck back, that he was going to get a car, and he told her that he just killed a state trooper. … She acted shocked and asked if he was serious. I started crying and he started telling her that he just got done wiping off the officer’s brains from the truck.”
After picking up Eric Knysz’s mother, the three then drove to nearby Walhalla where the young couple had earlier looked at a car for sale. At that time, Eric Knysz allegedly stole a vehicle. Sarah Knysz testified that her mother-in-law drove the truck back to her home, while she and her husband took off in the stolen vehicle.
Sarah Knysz also testified that she turned off her cell phone and removed its data card at the request of her husband so they couldn’t be tracked. She later turned the data card over to police.
“He was talking about how we had to get out of town and I had to get rid of my phone and that he would get me a new one,” she said. “He didn’t want the police tracking us because the last time the cops were around asking him question, I willingly gave them my cell phone number. So, he thought that they would use it to track us.”
The couple then drove to the a convenience store in Manistee County’s Wellston where police finally caught up with them around 8:25 p.m.
“I went inside the store, he was outside getting gas. After he came in, I saw a state cop looking at the car and my husband ran out the back. I waited in the store and then I heard loud noises and when it registered that it was more gunshots, I went out the front door and I saw my husband laying on the ground. And then I had guns pointed at me and I was told to get on the ground,” she said.
Eric Knysz was shot in the leg. Both were then taken into police custody.
When asked why she didn’t act after her husband shot Butterfield, Sarah Knysz said she was afraid, adding that her husband has threatened to kill her before.
“The fear and the shock and I was almost seven months pregnant and I didn’t know where we were. I know I can’t run faster than the car and I know I definitely can’t run faster than a bullet,” she said.
In addition to murder of a police officer, Eric Knysz is charged with felony firearm, concealed weapons violation, unlawfully driving away an auto, and being a habitual offender. He faces up to life in prison if convicted as charged. His trial is scheduled to start Feb. 18.
TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.